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Deflections: A victory for common sense


And so it goes that the right thing is done for someone who deserved better and finally got it.

A competitive team coach is a decent fellow. The kids like him; there are no real issues from the parents; the team is disciplined and does pretty much as well as it could; the season rolls along without incident. ’Til one of his boys receives an infraction that, according to the league rules, results in a two-game suspension.

As is his duty, according to by-laws, the coach reports said incident to the association within the required timeframe. The coach isn’t entirely sure if the boy is to sit one or two games, but to be safe, he asks his association. The association tells him it’s a one-game penalty.

Thank you, says the coach, and he sits the boy for one game, and plays him the next one. After that second game, he is swiftly notified by the league that it was a two-game suspension. As a result the coach is suspended for five games for using an illegal player. The coach tells the league his own association told him it was just one game and supplies the email to prove it.

No, no, says the league. That’s not an excuse. You’re suspended.

The parents and kids are quite upset and ask his association to intervene. At an appeal hearing to the league, an association representative shows up in the coach’s defence and admits to the error being theirs, not his.

No, no, says the appeal board. The rule is clear. The suspension stands.

The coach appeals to the branch on the same grounds. No, no, says the next appellate group. You should have known it was two games. You remain suspended.

The coach appeals to Hockey Canada. He wins the appeal. The suspension is erased.

There’s a vitally important message in this. We have here a volunteer who, acting in the best interests of his players, did his due diligence and reported the infraction as required. His own governing body told him it was one game and admitted to the error and to leading him astray.

Common sense and a duty to fairness would make one believe that an injustice was done. Nothing would be gained by having this fellow serve a suspension. In fact, I would argue the lesson had already been learned by both him and his association with respect to application of rules. The suspension is a one-size-fits-all no matter the circumstances. The two local appellate bodies seemed unable to see past the rule and show empathy for a coach. Where was the spirit of the rules? Is the intent to just ensnare whoever breaks them, no matter the circumstances?

Justice won. How unfortunate it could not have been dispensed earlier.

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